Stocks Wobble as Early Gains Slip

NEW YORK (AP) -- Coming off two days of losses, U.S. stocks are mostly lower Thursday after a midday rally faded. Chemicals maker Monsanto is falling after Bloomberg News reported that U.S. authorities have concerns about its sale to Bayer. Household goods makers and smaller companies are also down, while technology, industrial and health care companies are rising. Toymakers Hasbro and Mattel are down as Toys R Us moves toward shuttering its U.S. stores.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index fell 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,747 as of 1:53 p.m. Eastern time. It climbed as much as 13 points earlier. The Dow Jones industrial average added 136 points, or 0.5 percent, to 24,891. The Nasdaq composite lost 19 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,477. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks slid 6 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,578, and most of the companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange traded lower.

BARGAIN HUNTING: Discount retailer Dollar General climbed $4.05, or 4.5 percent, to $93.25 after it said shoppers spent more money per trip during the fourth quarter. The company also gave a strong forecast for the year. Competitor Dollar Tree gained $1.40, or 1.5 percent, to $94.21.

TOYS WINDING DOWN: Mattel declined 38 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $13.80 and Hasbro fell $1.12, or 1.3 percent, to $87.41 as Toys R Us prepares to shut down its U.S. operations. CEO David Brandon told employees Wednesday the chain plans to liquidate all of its U.S. stores, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Associated Press. The company has 740 stores and 30,000 employees, and its struggles have hurt both Hasbro and Mattel because they each get about 10 percent of their sales from Toys R Us.

The 70-year-old company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late October and said in late January that it would close 182 stores. Since that date, Mattel has plunged 22 percent and Hasbro has fallen 7 percent.

SEEDS OF DOUBT: Monsanto stock fell $4.92, or 4 percent, to $118.23 after Bloomberg News reported that antitrust regulators want Bayer to sell more assets before they allow the company to buy Monsanto. The report cited unnamed sources familiar with the matter. Bayer agreed to buy Monsanto for $66 billion in 2016, and its U.S.-traded shares rose 22s cent to $29.76 Thursday.

LEADERS: Apple contributed to the gains for technology companies as it rose 69 cents to $179.13 and IBM added $2.50, or 1.6 percent, to $160.62. Construction equipment maker Caterpillar gained $1.93, or 1.3 percent, to $154.47 and General Electric added 13 cents to $14.41 as industrial companies rose.

Among health care companies, Alexion Pharmaceuticals gained $4.49, or 3.7 percent, to $127.16 after it said one of its key experimental drugs worked in a late-stage study. ALXN1210 is designed to treat a rare blood disorder. Merck moved up 64 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $55.44.

OFFICE MOVE: Consumer giant Unilever fell 92 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $52.42 after the company said it will put its sole headquarters in the Netherlands. For year it's had dual head offices in London and Rotterdam. The company said its part of a restructuring aimed at making it a "more agile and more focused business."

PRINT IT: 3D Systems Holdings jumped $1, or 8.2 percent, to $13.15 after the 3D printer maker had a stronger fourth quarter than analysts expected.

WATERWORKS: Connecticut Water Service jumped $4.71, or 9 percent, to $57.28 after the parent company of San Jose Water agreed to buy it for $750 million in stock. SJW Group lost $2.28, or 4.2 percent, to $52.10.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 33 cents to $61.29 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 29 cents to $65.18 per barrel in London.

METALS: Gold fell $7.80 to $1,317.80 an ounce. Silver fell 12 cents to $16.42 an ounce. Copper lost 3 cents to $3.13 a pound.

BONDS: Bond prices turned lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.83 percent from 2.82 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slid to 106.19 yen from 106.25 yen. The euro fell to $1.2323 from $1.2375.

OVERSEAS: The DAX in Germany rose 0.9 percent and France's CAC 40 gained 0.6 percent. The British FTSE 100 added 0.2 percent. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 edged 0.1 percent higher while South Korea's Kospi rose 0.3 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.3 percent.

(BE)